What are Console Tables?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

When people refer to console tables, they may mean a variety of things. Much depends upon how familiar people are with their furniture history, or whether they’ve simply seen modern examples of the console table. The earliest console tables are frequently very different than what is included in this more modern definition.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Console tables in original form were likely first designed by the Romans. Instead of having the usual four legs that typically defines a table, an early console table had two front legs, and was fairly narrow, perhaps one to two feet in width (.30-.61m). Since a table like this could clearly not stand on its own, these were often considered furniture installations, and were supported by installing the table onto a wall. Since the back was installed, like many a modern cabinet, there wasn’t much need to worry about design on anything but the front and top of the table. Various designs did proliferate in the march of furniture through the ages, reflecting the design aesthetics of each period.

Modern console tables are often quite different from their ancestral counterparts. The main difference is that most of these tables have four legs, and some can even be designed as freestanding cabinets. The main reason they retain their original name is that the table may have a very defined back and front. The front features decorations, access to cabinets and drawers, and perhaps other features, though some are quite plain. The back of the table is usually free of designs.

Most console tables are much taller than the average coffee table, though they are often grouped in with coffee tables and end tables as “occasional tables.” Height of console tables can vary to some degree. Typically height is approximately the same as the average adult’s hip height or just a little higher, possibly the average adult’s waist height.

Some console tables are used in entryways or to take up space in large rooms. They are the perfect place for a dramatic arrangement of flowers or small sculpture pieces. Since many of the tables do feature drawers or cabinets, useful items can be kept in consoles tables. Those with drawers, when placed in entryways, may make the perfect repository for keys or collected mail. It’s easy to clutter up these tables when they are in entryways, if you don’t sort and file your mail on a frequent basis.

As for design, you’ll find just about anything you’re looking for. Console tables can feature wood with glass tops, marble tops, or be constructed with any forms of wood or metal, from the relatively cheap to the extremely expensive. You’ll also be able to find these tables in a variety of furniture “period” styles to best match your other furniture. A few modern console table styles do have the “two leg” style of the past and do need to be installed, but this tends to reduce functionality of the table, and also makes it challenging if you like to occasionally refresh your home by rearranging the furniture.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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